A different kind of rail trail opens in Concord

  • A self-pedaled “rail bike” used by Scenic RailRiders in Concord is shown.

  • Members of the Kearsarge Chamber of Commerce took a tour of the Scenic RailRiders attraction off Sewalls Falls Road, which opened this weekend. The tour takes riders on a 6.4-mile trip along railroad tracks using self-pedaled "bikes." Daniel Watts—Courtesy

  • Members of the Kearsarge Chamber of Commerce took a tour of the Scenic RailRiders attraction off Sewalls Falls Road, which opened this weekend. The tour takes riders on a 6.4-mile trip along railroad tracks using self-pedaled "bikes." Daniel Watts—Courtesy

  • Members of the Kearsarge Chamber of Commerce took a tour of the Scenic RailRiders attraction off Sewalls Falls Road, which opened this weekend. The tour takes riders on a 6.4-mile trip along railroad tracks using self-pedaled "bikes." Daniel Watts—Courtesy

  • Carolyn and Gary Leblanc sit in a Scenic Railriders rail bike. Courtesy

  • People test one of Scenic RailRiders’ “rail bikes” last weekend. The attraction takes visitors along a 6.4-mile trail in Concord on self-pedaled bikes. Courtesy Scenic RailRiders

  • A map shows the route Scenic RailRiders take on their tours along abandoned Pam Am railroad tracks. Scenic RailRiders—Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 7/16/2019 12:57:02 PM

A different type of rail trail has opened up in Concord.

Scenic RailRiders opened Friday off Sewalls Falls Road in Concord along an abandoned stretch of Pan Am Railways track that stretches from above the state prison to Commercial Street in Boscawen.

This isn’t a rail trail in the traditional sense – a flattened path with the tracks removed. This trail still has its rails, which are ridden on a mountain coaster-like contraption: participants take a seat on a “rail bike” with wheels that fit over the tracks and pedal themselves along.

“You get to be outdoors in the wilderness. You just enjoy the ride and get some exercise to boot,” said RailRiders president Gary Leblanc of Peabody, Mass.

Leblanc said he has a 5-year lease with Pan Am that he hopes to renew if his business is successful.

He got the idea about two years ago but had a difficult time finding abandoned pieces of track that hadn’t been ripped up and converted into rail trails. He said there are only 10 other rail bike businesses in the country.

There are 558 miles of rail trails – former railroad tracks that have been converted into multi-use paths – and 280 miles of potential rail trail lands in New Hampshire, according to the Rails to Trails Conservancy website.

“I got in just in time before Pan Am started pulling up the rails,” he said.

A “handy guy” who built his own house, Leblanc said he built and designed the rail bikes in his garage. They come in two-and-four-seater models.

The trail takes riders through farm land and forest bracketing the Merrimack River and at one point, it crosses a trestle bridge. The total trail is about 6.4 miles, with riders heading north, then south and then back to the starting point off Sewalls Falls Road.

Each tour is led by a lead and rear guide bike who sets the pace of the expedition. When they get to the end, Leblanc said turnables allow the bikes to switch direction without hassle. The device is necessary – a four-man bike weighs about 365 pounds, so picking it off the rails isn’t an option.

The land is owned by Pan Am, but Leblanc needed the city of Concord’s permission to build a 24-car parking lot of Sewalls Falls Road, which was granted in May according to city documents.

The stretch of railroad track is the same length the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail were hoping to utilize to extend the trail into Concord. The current trail stretches from Boscawen to Lebanon.

Leblanc said he is still figuring out the company’s schedule but anticipates tours will be offered Monday  through Friday. Tours take about two hours to complete.




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